Blogged: Should bloggers aim for/be held to a set of professional standards/code of conduct

Notes from Open Space session at Improbable’s Monthly D&D Satellite: What are we going to do about Theatre Criticism?
Attended by: some lovely people whose names I did not take (sorry)

Discussion started around whether any rules for blogging should or could be created. The quick consensus was that no, they shouldn’t and no, they weren’t really desirable. Key factor is clearly the inability to make anything enforceable so the issue moved somewhat around whether a sense of responsibility is what we are actually after. Much chat about the very nature of blogging being an individual act, the freedom of speech and the right to respond to a piece of art as you see fit (especially as a paying customer, even for a preview), often closer to opinion giving rather than critical discourse: all making it impossible to ‘regulate’ for want of a better word.

Problem comes in trying to apply journalistic concepts too strictly onto bloggers. Asking/making them adhere to official critic rules without giving them any of the benefits subjugates blogging to an ‘inferior journalism’ mindset which isn’t what it is about. Indeed, blogging could be seen to be challenging the print media voice – perhaps giving a voice to the audience member – and offers a unique opportunity to subvert expectations without being wedded to format, word count, structure – embrace the freedom of opportunity, create an interactive community with your readers. For the most part, readers will be able to discern that there is a clear difference between journalism and blogging.

It was suggested that rather than a code of conduct, perhaps what is more advisable would be a greater transparency around blogging. This in turn throws up its own questions as to how far should this go: should any connections to the production in question be clearly stated? Should any connections to the theatre industry in general be displayed for all to see? Should the way in which the ticket was procured be stated? Do any of these things actually make a difference?

But underlying the discussion, and something perhaps I wish I had focused the original question around, is the other side of some kind of framework that would actually provide a measure of support for bloggers. The discussion moved quite naturally on this: creating some sort of reference point, helping people to continually improve their writing (something that every single writer, no matter their platform, should welcome), and providing something of a supportive atmosphere to keep spirits up when motivation is flagging and offering moral support in difficult times when people are feeling attacked (relative anonymity of web commenters means this happens more often than one might think).

Insofar as any conclusion was reached, the general consensus was very much that as far as bloggers are concerned, individual responsibility is sufficient. Two final statements did ring out for me though which seem excellent advice for bloggers or indeed people thinking about blogging “trust your internal voice” and “remember that ultimately most of the people reading your blog are inside the industry”.

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